Week Twelve of college football shook up the playoff picture yet again as three more undefeated teams suffered their first losses and the SEC struggled in its week of games against cupcake opponents. Ohio State and Oklahoma State each fell to a one loss team as Michigan State and Baylor look to be back in playoff contention and previously undefeated Houston found a way to drop a game to Uconn. While Alabama had a dominant win over their cupcake, their strength of schedule took a hit as Georgia and Florida each needed overtime to top Georgia Southern and Florida Atlantic, and South Carolina suffered a loss to Old Dominion.
Oklahoma State's stay in the rankings was a brief affair as they follow up their win over TCU with a loss to Baylor, and Florida falls off the board as not only do they struggle, but the entire SEC looks fairly weak. This allows Alabama, Notre Dame and Oklahoma to slide up next to Clemson and we welcome new comer Michigan State, whose wins on the road over Ohio State and Michigan and a home victory over Oregon are looking better and better. Finally, Stanford sneaks their way back amidst the top teams as the only two loss team worth considering. While the losses are major factors, the Cardinal will play twelve out of their thirteen games this season against Power Five teams or Notre Dame, that schedule and that performance has them lurking just outside the top five in my rankings.
1 - Clemson 11-0 (@Louisville, Notre Dame, Georgia Tech, BC, @Miami, @NC State, FSU, @Syracuse, Wake Forest)
2 - Alabama 10-1 (vsWisconsin, @Georgia, Arkansas, @Texas A&M, Tennessee, LSU, @Miss St)
3 - Notre Dame 10-1 (Texas, @Virginia, GA Tech, Navy, USC, @Temple, @Pitt, @Wake Forest, N - Wisconsin)
4 - Oklahoma 10-1 (@Tennessee, West Virginia, @K State, Texas Tech, @Kansas, Iowa St, @Baylor, TCU)
5 - Michigan State 10-1 (Oregon, Air Force, Purdue, @Rutgers, @Michigan, Indiana, Maryland, @Ohio State)
6 - Stanford 9-2 (@USC, @Oregon St, Arizona, UCLA, Washington, @Washington St, @CU, California)
Week Twelve eliminated another of the top four ranked teams as we head into the final weeks of the season. Two of my top six will face each other head to head this week, and while upsets have been a common occurrence this year, no week is prone for more upsets than Rivalry Week. Here are the key matchups of riveting rivalries in Week Thirteen.
Texas Tech at Texas
Texas has played a game on Thanksgiving Day every year since 2008, and while this game originally started as a series against Texas A&M prior to their move to the SEC, the tradition continues as the Longhorns host either TCU or Texas Tech in a Big 12 conference matchup. The Longhorns have had a chaotic year, with a marquee win over Oklahoma, but a 4-6 overall record, and needing wins this week and against Baylor next week to make a bowl. The Red Raiders are also looking to close out strong as they handled Kansas State two weeks prior and expect a solid showing coming off their bye week in the last game of their regular season, held on Thanksgiving Day.
Navy at Houston
One of the gifts of Thanksgiving weekend is a solid slate of games held on Friday to help us all recover from the food coma. This matchup should not be missed while half-sleeping off that helping of leftovers as it showcases a battle for the AAC West, the winner of which will most likely take on Temple in the AAC Championship Game with a New Year's Day Bowl Game on the line. Houston inexplicitly suffered their first loss to Uconn in Week Twelve, but a win over Navy would still give them control of the conference and keep them on track for a massively successful season. The midshipmen, however, are no easy out as their only loss on the year has been against top ranked Notre Dame.
Iowa at Nebraska
Another big time Friday showdown is the Hero's Game, affectionately known better as Farmageddon, as these two heartland powers go head to head. Iowa has already punched their ticket to the Big Ten Championship Game but their undefeated record will be on the line against a Huskers team that is not only looking for a marquee win in a disappointing season, but a win for bowl eligibility. After upsetting Michigan State two weeks ago in controversial fashion, the Huskers dominated Rutgers on the road and have momentum going into this rivalry contest. Iowa needs to stay consistent and close out their regular season unblemished if they want any shot at making the College Football Playoff.
UCLA at USC
While Friday will help us all recover from Thanksgiving, Saturday is a truly spectacular lineup of rivalries. There are numerous games that hold local bragging rights, but several have larger implications as well. The Crosstown Rivalry is one of these as it will be the battle for the highly contested Pac-12 South title. The parity in the Pac-12 this season, in particular the South Division has allowed for several different teams to keep themselves alive in this race, but it finally comes down to the two hailing from Southern California, as both hold tiebreaker wins over Utah. This series has been played every year since 1936 and while USC holds the overall edge 44-31, UCLA has won the past three, every year since Jim Mora became the Bruins' Head Coach.
Notre Dame at Stanford
This rivalry game has been played all but two years since 1988 and while Notre Dame holds the overall edge at 16-9, Stanford has won four of the past six. This game has also seen both teams ranked in each of the past four meetings, where the home team has won every time. The matchup also has major playoff indications as the Irish would love to have a win over the possible Pac-12 champion on their resume in lieu of a conference championship and the Cardinal are likely the only two loss team in realistic contention due to their exceedingly difficult schedule. Stanford will head to the Pac-12 championship game in the final week of the season, but needs a win over a top four ranked Notre Dame squad to play for more than just a trip to the Rose Bowl.
Oklahoma at Oklahoma State
College football prognosticators suspected that the Big 12 showdown at the conclusion of the season between TCU and Baylor would be a play-in game for the college football playoff, however, it now seems far more likely that this distinction belongs to the Bedlam rivalry. With a win against their in-state rival, Oklahoma can clinch the Big 12 Championship, as they hold a head to head tiebreaker over Baylor. A victory would also put the Sooners in prime position to make the playoff, despite the lack of a Big 12 Championship Game to add to their resume. The Cowboys, however, would love to ruin this dream for their rivals, and can also secure a Big 12 Championship with a victory as well as Baylor losing one of their final two games. This rivalry is so intense it goes beyond just football as the two teams have an overall Bedlam winner across all sports, while the football series itself is huge, having been played every year since 1910.
In addition to these riveting rivalries, Week Thirteen features one of the biggest rivalries in all of college football in the Game of the Week and a long time, though less hard hitting rivalry in the pillow fight of the week.
Game of the Week
The Game of the Week is known as The Game. It is arguably the most intense and historic rivalry in all of college football and in 2000 was deemed by ESPN to be the greatest North American Sports Rivalry. The Game was first played in 1887 and has been an annual contest since 1918. It features the previously third ranked Ohio State Buckeyes and the top fifteen ranked Michigan Wolverines. While the Buckeyes suffered their first loss on the season against Michigan State in Week Twelve, if the Spartans suffer an upset against Penn State in the final week, The Game will determine the winner of the Big Ten East Division. Regardless of more national implications, this game is of utmost importance to these two teams and this season will be the first matchup of head coaches Urban Meyer and Jim Harbaugh. While the Buckeyes need this win to finish their season on a high note after a devastating loss, the Wolverines seem even hungrier for a victory which would secure a signature win on the season and prove that they are back as a national power after a number of down years and three straight losses in The Game.
Pillow Fight of the Week
The Pillow Fight of the Week is Boston College at Syracuse. Each of these teams have only three wins on the season and Boston College is still searching for their first conference victory. While this may not be the most prestigious rivalry in college football, these two teams have met 48 times in their history and in fact, Syracuse is Boston College's most common opponent of any FBS school. While this rivalry was primarily played in the Big East, as both teams were founding members, their subsequent moves to the ACC have allowed it to continue after a brief hiatus. The Eagles nearly upset Notre Dame in Week Twelve, forcing five turnovers, but were unable to generate enough offense to claim the victory. Neither of these teams have won in the past seven weeks of the season, but one will close their season on a high note in the Rivalry Week pillow fight of the week.